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exclusive Why Kerry need to take a long, hard look at the direction they are taking


Kerry's Gavin White after defeat to Cork in the Munster Football Championship

Kerry's Gavin White after defeat to Cork in the Munster Football Championship

Kerry's Gavin White after defeat to Cork in the Munster Football Championship

Kerry football woke up with a massive headache today. They were many people’s favourites to win this year’s All-Ireland title and after winning the league a couple of weeks ago, who could argue with that.

Cork, a proud football county, were able to frustrate the life out of their opponents while sticking rigidly to the game plan, a plan helped in no small way by the horrendous conditions.

In fact, both teams borrowed the ‘Ulster’ playbook for the day and who could blame them? Although, when Peter Keane and his management team sit down to do the yearly review, I think they will admit that they got it badly wrong.

There is something just not quite right with Kerry football at senior level. The tactic of playing a mainly defensive game suited Cork and that game plan is never going to produce enough scores, especially against the good teams in the game.

What were Kerry thinking? What was the mindset going into this game? Kerry, after all. are the recently crowned Division 1 winners while their opponents operated in Division 3. I think they showed far too much respect to Cork at times when they should have been attacking them from minute one.

Kerry are struggling to come to terms with the ‘modern’ game and look like they are caught between a rock and a hard place in terms of playing their traditional brand of football and adapting to the new style of defensive football that every team plays.

For long periods of the game yesterday, they left David Clifford on his own up front with no support whatsoever. That is a negative way of playing and goes against everything that is good about Kerry football.

It would be interesting to hear what the likes of Mikey Sheehy, Ger Power, Eoin Liston, Colm Cooper, Paul Galvin and many other terrifically talented attacking players would make of yesterday’s performance.

It was as shambolic as it gets for this group and Kerry football now needs to have a good. hard look at itself in the winter months. A similar approach to the game in 2021 would be another step backwards.

Cork do deserve great credit for sticking to the task but must have had serious doubts about their ability to compete with the 2019 All-Ireland finalists. They, like everyone else. have been listening to the hype surrounding this Kerry team over the last few weeks but that didn’t seem to bother them in the slightest.

They would have been very happy that it was a home game firstly and would have been thrilled with the persistent downpour for most of the match. Poor conditions suit the underdog always and Cork were able to match Kerry in terms of mistakes made.

On this occasion, however, the Cork handling errors were rarely punished as one mistake was often followed by another from their opponent. It was that sort of game.

Kerry always looked like they would pull away when it mattered most during the closing stages of normal time but weren’t clinical enough and that cost them in the end.

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Leading by a point with time up Cork were awarded a free that was very missable but some lose Kerry lips resulted in the free being moved into a better position and Mark Collins levelled it to extend the game.

Then in the first half of extra-time with Kerry leading by a point, David Clifford probably should have signalled the ‘mark’ and popped over to extend the lead to two points but incredibly kept playing and kicked wide under some pressure.

Clifford will be very disappointed with some of the frees he missed at important times but was still by far the best Kerry forward on the field along with replacement Killian Spillane. who was very lively and dangerous when introduced.

The Rebels were able to stay in the game with some very deliberate build-up play and will no doubt be jumping at training this week. but they need to be on high alert going into the Munster final against a decent, hardworking Tipperary team.

I can tell you that Tipp will be delighted that it’s a red jersey they face in two weeks’ time and will believe that they can win a first provincial title in 85 years.

There are other teams who will be happy that Kerry are gone and the two teams left in the Connacht championship will see a clear path to this year’s All-Ireland final. Mayo looked very good against Roscommon and are the one team that face up to you and go at you. They are the best man for man marking team in the country and their style of play is always great the watch. I think Mayo are capable of winning this title but they cannot afford a bad day in front of the goalposts.

Kerry will go away and lick their wounds over the winter months and if they come back more like Mayo and less like Tyrone then they will be a major force once more.

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